Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.
To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the normal process by which food is broken down and used by the body for energy. Several things happen when food is digested and absorbed:
- A sugar called glucose enters the bloodstream. Glucose is a source of fuel for the body.
- An organ called the pancreas makes insulin. The role of insulin is to move glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and other cells, where it can be stored or used as fuel.
- Diabetes occurs when the body produces too little insulin, develops resistance to insulin, or both.
Signs & Symptoms
A high blood sugar level can cause many symptoms, including:
- Blurry vision
- Excess thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
Because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar have no symptoms. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop over a shorter period and many people are very sick by the time they are diagnosed.
After many years, diabetes can lead to other serious problems. These problems are known as diabetes complications, and include:
- Eye problems, including trouble seeing (especially at night), light sensitivity, and blindness
- Sores and infections of the leg or foot, which if untreated, can lead to amputation of the leg or foot
- Damage to nerves in the body, causing pain, tingling, a loss of feeling, problems digesting food, and erectile dysfunction
- Kidney problems, which can lead to kidney failure
- Weakened immune system, which can lead to more frequent infections
- Increased chance of having a heart attack or stroke
A urinalysis may show high blood sugar, but that test alone does not diagnose diabetes. If a Deborah Heart and Lung Center cardiologist suspects you of having diabetes, the following tests will be done:
- Fasting blood glucose level
- Hemoglobin A1c test
- Oral glucose tolerance test